Voice Products: Modern Innovation, Opportunities For More
Phillip Hunter is a voice technology guru - covering the early days of voice-enabled call centers to modern products like Alexa.
Alexa fmr UX Product Lead on Building Voice Products (Part 2)
Today, we interact with voice products on virtually a daily basis. It’s staggering to think about where voice tech was just a few years ago and where it is today. From voice recognition in smartphones (Siri, Cortana) and voice-first devices (Google Home, Alexa) – voice technology is scaling at a phenomenal rate. As a result, it’s vital for product managers to understand the fundamentals of voice. Specifically, I will share the “voice factors” that are responsible for making an impact in our everyday lives.
First, you need to look at the vast computing resources that are available today compared to the earliest speech recognition platforms. In other words, the early telephony customer service platforms did not have access to a fraction of the technology when compared to today’s voice products. For example, the combined power of large-scale solutions (cloud databases, machine learning, ambient computing) enables a whole new level of technological capabilities. As a result, today’s voice products deliver enhanced content that provides users with a fully-integrated experience.
Outside of the technology maturing, we’re also seeing the expectations for user interactions changing as well. For example, users now expect to use voice products in more ways than ever before. Think about when the iPhone launched in 2007. The original platform was a game changer – but what really drove the product’s utilization and adoption was the app store. In other words, voice technology is becoming a user requirement – in spite of the fact that the tech isn’t perfect. This presents a unique challenge for voice products, as there’s a fine line between producing a viable product and meeting every consumer demand.
Convenience is nice – but not everything needs to be voice-enabled.
When we think about user experience, voice products represent the “next pivot” in terms of primary user engagement. Simply put, it is the go-to interaction for many of the most popular consumer products that are used daily. That said, there are plenty of voice-enabled products that not leveraging the technology to provide real value. Instead, we see voice interfaces that are novelties, toe-dippers and experiments. In other words, these products aren’t doing anything meaningful with voice.
Moving forward, we need to view the opportunity for voice technology with the level of expectations as first-class digital interfaces. Thankfully, today’s users have high expectations for apps and online products. As a result, we need to treat voice products with the same level of care and thoughtfulness to ensure their long-term success.